Courage, Integrity, Persistence: Nelson Mandela

As the world commemorates the life of Nelson Mandela today in ceremony and memorial gatherings around the world, it is amazing to see all the photos of his life, to hear stories, to hear leaders trying to summarize so magnanimous a life, a presence, a force who single-handedly changed so much in the world.

As the world commemorates the life of Nelson Mandela today in ceremony and memorial gatherings around the world, it is amazing to see all the photos of his life, to hear stories, to hear leaders trying to summarize so magnanimous a life, a presence, a force who single-handedly changed so much in the world.

nelson-mandela-African-National-Congress-sized(2)As with millions of people- Nelson Mandela’s life and example had a huge impact on me too, leading to my first social activism in school. Hard to believe, but I’m old enough, or segregation was recent enough, that I briefly attended segregated schools in the southern US. A court order required resistant all-white schools to bring in kids from other areas to balance the demographics. I was bussed from “the other side of the tracks” to a school in north Dallas. It was here, in grade school, that I experienced my first race riots, and anger so frightening, I quickly learned to hide my nationality; people assumed I was Mexican, I never talked about my true mixed heritage.

In college, with Mr. Mandela in prison, and the world looking on, courage came closer: we took our lead from others united in the anti-aparthied struggle, organizing rallies and demonstrations. With this diverse group of students from around the world, we would answer the questions: “what will I die for; what will I go to jail for?”, all of us trying to fathom a 20 year+ imprisonment, as Mr. Mandela was then living. We debated heatedly on the true effect of sanctions- divestiture and the withdrawal of the financial world from an economy- debating who actually is hurt by such actions.

tumblr_m55yxymTsz1rw6j6yo1_500

Though the success and impact or our actions seemed doubtful, we all agreed that Mr. Mandela and all of South Africa needed visible, simultaneous, global support, at key moments, from all parts of the world- to send a message of solidarity.  So on cue, over many months, we all took to the streets, took over offices, some getting arrested, closing down financial institutions, dubbing them all “World/American Banks of Apartheid”.

nelson-mandela

I remember well the leader of our protest group, a North Indian woman who educated us at every chance about the history and political climate of South Africa- her family being among the first “indentured servants” in South Africa using East Indians for labor. She told us that this was also the first multi-national issue for a young lawyer named Mahatma Ghandi.  (Write me if you want the book Ghandi in South Africa, now out of print.)

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” Mandela said after he was freed in 1990.

Nelson_Mandela_2000_5

Thank you Mr. Mandela, for showing us what it means to live with purpose, true integrity, persistent beliefs, and with every breath, fighting with courage to the very end.

Some interesting articles about Nelson Mandela’s Legacy:

Nelson Mandela Inspired Millions To Bridge Divides, Seek Peaceful Change (PHOTOS/VIDEOS)

Six things Nelson Mandela Believed that Most People Won’t Talk About

Author: tara linda

musician, poet, jewelry maker